Hiring Someone with FASD

I have just hired someone with FASD now what?

What do you and your staff know about FASD?

It is beneficial to learn all you can about FASD. Your staff should also be involved in this process so everyone knows how to help the staff member with FASD succeed. Patience and tolerance are very important when dealing with these individuals, and it is easier to do this when you understand the dynamics of FASD.

There are Primary and Secondary disabilities of FASD. These issues can cause challenges when employing an individual with FASD.

Learn about FASD here

Primary Disabilities

  • Memory problems
  • Difficulties with organization
  • Difficulties with generalizing from one situation to another
  • Difficulties with time management
  • Impulsivity and motivation
  • Difficulties with language & communication skills
  • Anger control

Secondary Disabilities

  • Alcohol and drug problems
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Dropping out of school
  • Criminal justice system involvement
  • Homelessness or unstable living situations
  • Struggles with relationships and/or family members
  • Theft/Collection

It is very important for you to know about these disabilities when employing a person with FASD. By understanding these disabilities, you can provide the support that is needed. For

more information on these disabilities or FASD, you can contact the NEAFAN in Fort McMurray and someone will provide you with the answers you need.

What is the individual with FASD able to do?

Memory Issues

Build on individual strengths. Assign jobs that are in line with capabilities. Be sure the employees with FASD have clear and attainable job duties. Make a list of strengths and focus on these strengths. Some individuals may require a job coach or they may have to shadow another employee. Remember that they learn differently, so it would be beneficial to ensure the person teaching the employee has patience and is willing to repeat job duties numerous times. Individuals with FASD have a difficult time retaining information and may have to be shown the same job duty on a daily basis. Remembering from one day to the next can be an issue. Some cannot remember the job from the morning to the afternoon. This is why repetition is extremely important. Another suggestion would be to provide pictures or visual cues to show how to complete a task step-by-step. A checklist is a useful approach.

What is the best way to tech job duties?


It is no benefit to hand people with FASD a lengthy written job description. It is better to have the individuals perform one or two tasks and then add to them when the tasks are being performed at an acceptable level. Only add one or two tasks at a time. Too many new duties would be overwhelming and not attainable causing frustration and failure. Do not assume that the employees are able to “jump” right into the job just because they did the same tasks at a previous job. Individuals with FASD may have difficulty taking information/ skills from one place and transferring them to another even if they are identical job duties; i.e. bussing tables at one restaurant and then going to another. You may to re-teach in a different situation and / or location.

Role models are also a positive way of teaching. If possible, having the same staff member deal with a particular employee makes learning the job less frustrating. The employee will feel more comfortable following the same daily routine with the same person coaching them. There Is comfort in knowing a co-worker is understanding and supportive.

Are routine, Structure, and consistency important?

Organizational difficulties

Staff members affected by FASD have brain damage due to alcohol exposure before birth. They learn things very differently than your other staff members do. The three things that will assist are routine, structure, and consistency. Learning a new skill and transferring it to a different situation is very difficult. It has to be the same skill, in the same place and every day is a new day. Problems generalizing from one situation to another are very common. Organizing and time management are also areas of difficulty. This is why routine, structure and consistency are important. This can be achieved with a job checklist, printed time schedule and assigning the same shifts (only the morning shift on set days). It would be beneficial for you to ensure that they have their shifts written down properly. If visual cues are required, coming up, it should be written into the day planner as it is not a usual day off and can cause confusion.

What if the person wants their disability kept confidential?

If confidentiality is desired, the person affected by FASD must not be “Centred out”. If others in your workplace use a day planner, make sure that they also have a day planner. If you need to speak to them regarding their job duties or behaviors, do so in private, not in front of others. Treat them as you would your other employees and make sure that their disability is kept confidential. If employee wants others to know, they will deal with it in their own time.

How do I handle inappropriate behavior?

When you hire a new employee and go through the policies and procedures of your company, you must be very clear. Explain what is acceptable to wear for work. If they need to wear a uniform or safety footwear, it has to be explained and must be role modeled by your other staff. For example an employer may say, “Those pants are not acceptable for work”. An individual with FASD may not understand this statement. A better approach would be to say, “ You cannot wear those stained, torn pants to work.” “ I will give you half an hour to go home and put on clean pants and come right back”

A schedule that shows when breaks are or when lunch is are very important. It also has to show what time they have to be back, or they just might not return. Another staff member can cue the employee that lunch is in 10 minutes or by telling them they can go for a break after they finish the task being done. Remember this may have to be a daily reminder. Digital watches with an alarm or a household egg timer can be helpful in this area as well.

If the employee is having personal hygiene issues, have a staff member that they are comfortable with talk to them about this. Do not embarrass them but explain gently. A job coach, a support agency and a parent or guardian, could also deal with this.

Keep the lines of communication open with everyone involved, as this will ensure assistance during off hours as well.

Another problem area can be money management. People with FASD often have no concept of money. Direct deposit is the best option for these staff members. The support people may have to limit access to these funds as individuals with FASD are easily taken advantage of and will be “broke” the same day they get paid. They do not understand that once their money is gone they do not have any more until next payday.

Individuals with FASD have poor boundaries and need to be reminded of what is appropriate. A stranger can be their best friend within minutes. This needs to be done directly – say exactly what you mean. This may seem rude, but they need exact information. For example, “Ralph, you need to knock”. Remember to be consistent and stick to what you have told these employees about their actions and behaviors. You can’t just “let it slide” once, or the person will be confused if “you blow your cool” the next time the same action occurs. Another issue that may arise is talking about private work issues in public and vice versa. Again, this is due to the lack of boundaries.

Another problem area is having friends hanging around the work place. They may not understand why friends can’t visit them at work. Friends are very distracting as they throw off the schedule. Again, you must be firm and explain that this is not acceptable.

After a week or two they may think they have learned everything and should be in charge of the work place. Again, be direct and explain job duties. This may have to be done daily. This may also be the time to add another task to the daily routine.

Another challenge that may arise is stealing, or collecting items that belong to another person. Individuals with FASD do not see this as stealing. The just took it because it was there and no one was using it. They do not have the concept that it belongs to someone else. They may just be borrowing the item. For example, tip jars in restaurants should not be accessible to the individual for trouble. By having the jar out of sight you are removing temptation.